Monday, January 31, 2011

The King's Speech - My Take

When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I felt a bit paranoid. Why? Let's see:
- Set in England - check
- About the monarchy - check
- Just before and at the beginning of, the Second World war - check
- Starring Michael Gambon (Cranford), Geoffrey Rush, Jennifer Ehle (Pride and Prejudice!), Helena Bonham Carter (A Room with a View) and, oh, yes, Colin Firth.

It was like someone had looked in my favorite things notebook or something. OK, I know, that's silly. But seriously, the only way this movie could be more up my alley is if Jane Austen wrote the screenplay.

The story is real: King George V is getting up in years. His heir is his oldest son, known to the family as David (the future King Edward VIII). His second son is the Duke of York, known to his family as Bertie.The oldest son is the golden boy, beloved by the press, brought up to be King. The second is son is quiet, devoted to his family and afflicted with a speech impairment that makes any sort of public appearance or obligation torturous.

Unfortunately for his family and his country, David was apparently not interested in subjugating his own desires to those of honor or duty. Which leaves...Bertie. (And, consequently in line to the throne, his daughter, the current Queen Elizabeth II)

Since David had not married, nor produced an heir, it seems maybe the Duke of York ought to have been preparing for the eventuality that confronts him.

The movie is about helping the future King George VI find his voice, yes, but it's also about duty, honor, and courage.
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. -- Ambrose Redmoon
Colin Firth is, as I expected, absolutely brilliant in this role. He brings the man to life and makes his stammer much more than just a affectation of an actor. (I found myself echoing George V: "Just get it out, man!") The audience feels badly for the king, you want the unorthodox methods to work.

Helena Bonham Carter dials it down in this film. She sparkles quietly, acting in a much understated fashion compared to what one is accustomed to seeing from her.

Geoffrey Rush is his usual scene stealing self. Michael Gambon so inhabits the role of George V (actually onscreen only a scant few minutes) you easily understand Bertie's equal parts awe, fear, respect and love of his father.

The weakest point, to my mind, is the unfortunate casting for Winston Churchill. Timothy Spall (Mr. Venus in the BBC adaptation of Our Mutual Friend) is not a good fit (one reviewer called him toad like, perhaps rat might be a better description considering Mr. Spall's role as Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter movies) and does not capture the wit or the gravity of Mr. Churchill. (I am willing to excuse this, however, considering the fact that if someone could actually capture Mr. Churchill's magic in a movie, the movie would then be about Churchill and not anything or anyone else.)

The wit is dry; the pace steady. There are no blatant s** scenes, no nudity, no violence and the one and only reason this film is rated R is because twice there is a long string of profanity. It is not spread throughout the movie (as so many action movies seem to do) and it is understandable (however unfortunate) in context. Without that I would have no objection in allowing my 9 yr old daughter to watch the film - it is uplifting without being saccharine and entertaining without being mindless.

Philip and I both found it depressing that he had to explain to the teenager behind the cash register at the movie theater what the movie was about. Apparently this boy had even asked his manager and he didn't know either. There was no poster up outside the theater. The movie was shown in the smallest theater in the back of the complex. Philip and I were easily the youngest folks in the room. It seems odd for such a deserving movie to be getting such treatment. Maybe that's not representation for the entire country: it is a gem of a film and deserves each and every award it receives.

The King's Speech official site, if you want to find out more.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Look-worthy Links - 1/29/11 Edition

1. This ribbon organizer is brilliant - no special tools required, not complicated at all.

2. I think I could pull off this no-sew shirt refashion. That is, if I could get over cutting into a perfectly good shirt.

3. An unexpectedly thoughtful post from the same guy who writes "Stuff Christians Like." The Trouble with Fruit.

4. Four Squares has a post about her "Strictest Relaxed Classical" Homeschooling method. Which is very much like our approach. 

5. Prince Charming and I went to the movies last night. (Pause here to get over the shock. What's more: thanks to coupons and such we managed to have dinner and a movie for $25. I know. I couldn't believe it either.)

Here's the trailer for what we saw:


Come back Monday to see my full review.

This post is linked to Saturday Stumbles at Simply Staci.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Books for Sweet Pea

Just this morning Sweet Pea (3) and I have read:

The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck by Beatrix Potter, Hardback BookThe Tale of Jemima Puddle Duck by Beatrix Potter. This one was for Tigger's school work but Sweet Pea tagged along. And then Sweet Pea brought me a stack of books to read just to her:

I Want to Do It Myself!: A Little Princess Story (Andersen Press Picture Books)I Want to Do It Myself by Tony Ross. This one could also be known as Sweet Pea's manifesto. (Polly checked this one out from the library for her sister - they know her so well!)

Never Take a Shark to the Dentist: and Other Things Not to DoNever Take a Shark to the Dentist by Judi Barrett. Tigger checked this one out, in anticipation of yesterday's dentist visit. Too cute, although Sweet Pea is still a little bit too literal to understand the humor of the pictures.

We're Going on a Bear Hunt: Anniversary Edition of a Modern Classic




We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury. A family favorite! Sweet Pea always feel sad for the bear at the end. "He just wanted to play with the baby," she told me this morning.

The older girls read so much for themselves that it's easy to forget Sweet Pea still needs to be read to frequently. Her sisters read to her nearly every day but I think it's been awhile since I read just to her. This morning she curled up with me.

"Just one more, Mama," she said after each one.

Those have to be some of the sweetest words in the English language.

This post contains Amazon Associate links. Any action taken with these links could result in compensation for me. Opinions are my own and I encourage you to check your library or Paperback Swap first - these books are worth it!

Make Your Own Bread

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking

Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, has completely changed how my family fixes and eats bread. We bought this book about two years ago and it's been well worth the money.

1. It's easy. No starter to feed, lest you think you've somehow taken on another child to raise. Anyway, that's how I feel about sourdough or Amish Friendship Bread. This is much easier. When we're in a season where making bread is just not on the to-do list (even if it only takes a few minutes) you can put this aside and start again later, when things aren't so crazy.

2. It's versatile. We've made several different types of loaves and just last week Prince Charming made beignets (kind of a New Orleans donut-pastry).The girls are asking for bagels next.

3. It has helped wean the girls (and Prince Charming) off that pasty white "bread" that the supermarket sells. I'm not a food snob by any stretch but buying that type of bread has always annoyed me because there is so little value to it. Little value nutritionally, small joy from eating it (as opposed to ice cream or cookies which are not high value nutritionally but very fun for a special treat) = not worth the money in my book.

Let's face it, almost every meal feels more complete with bread. This book can help.

This post is linked to Frugal Friday at Life as Mom.

This post contains Amazon Associate links. Any action taken with these links could result in compensation for me. Opinions are my own and I encourage you to check your library or Paperback Swap first - these books are worth it!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Multi-Pocket Folder Homeschool System

OK, it doesn't have the same ring as "Work Boxes", I admit. I've posted about this before (in August 2010). I came up with this system as an alternative for the workbox system all the cool homeschoolers were talking about. We - currently a family of 6 - live in a small, two bedroom house. We barely have space for all our books (and they are many, I admit) much less an intricate system of boxes for each child in school.

These folders (side note: ours are slightly different from the picture) serve a similar function and have really helped our school year. All of Polly's assignments for each of her subjects are written out and filed in the folder. Worksheet pages, cd's she needs, flash cards, etc. are placed in the appropriate pocket (I labeled each pocket with my trusty label maker). Everything she has to do for the entire week of school is in her folder.

Fourth Grade, to my mind, was time for Polly to begin transitioning to managing her own work. The interesting part is, since I made a folder for Tigger (1st grade) she has been learning to do the same thing.

Nicest perk: it eliminates all questions along the line of "When will school be over? Am I done yet?" My girls like to finish the work in four days so they have Friday (mostly) "off". I can imagine the indignation if I tried to get them to do that much work in four days but since they can see what has to be done, they do it.

Of course most subjects still require Mom or Dad to assist or explain the lesson, especially for Tigger. It's amazing to hear her working on what she can do alone while I get something else done, though. (Nursing the baby or switching the laundry, among other things.)

This post is linked up to Helpful Homeschool Hints at Many Little Blessings.

Products Similar to those mentioned in this post (affiliate links):



Wednesday, January 26, 2011

From the Commonplace Book - On Diets and Health

Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint. - Mark Twain
I wonder what Mark Twain would think of our blogging world? A misprint is no longer the worst thing that you could read.

My philosophy toward food is more like this:
Nothing is ever as good as it looks and nothing is ever as bad as it seems. -Anonymous
So I eat my grapefruit in the morning and drink my green tea, two supposedly healthy habits that I actually enjoy. We try to serve real food in it's simplest forms and my kids actually enjoy a lot of vegetables. But we also eat out sometimes and actually allow our children to eat fast food on occasion (even- gasp! - chicken nuggets).

Now that I'm (sigh) almost 30 and I've given birth to four children, I have to admit that I'm attracted to magazine articles or books that tell me they can boost my metabolism or help me lose weight or...but as a very wise man once said, "Of making many books there is no end," (it's in the Bible - Ecclesiastes 12:12, if you want to look it up). There will always be another book, another article, another blog post. People will always be declaring a food off limits, then on limits, then eat as much as you can, then, nope! Off limits, again. (Eggs, anyone? And is coffee good for you, bad for you, should it be a controlled substance or is it harmless right now?)

It probably wouldn't sell many books or magazines to say, "Eat what you want to eat. In moderation. Get off the couch once in a while. Go outside. Get at least 8 hours of sleep at night, when your body is designed to sleep. And stop, for goodness sakes, worrying about your diet, what you eat and how you look all the time. Thank you, very much and have a nice life."

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

10 Ways to Read More

You know you have 168 hours a week. You know you want to read more. How can you make that happen?

1. Keep a variety of books on hand - fiction, non-fiction, poetry, how-to, new to you cookbooks, humor, or essays. The choice is up to you. This doesn't have to be expensive: the library, PaperBack Swap, and loans from friends keep me well supplied with reading material.

2. Keep podcasts, books on c.d., and e-texts readily available. Buy an Ipad or a Kindle (ahem). OK, that last thing was a joke. But if you do have an Ipad or Kindle, there you go! Redeem the time - long commutes are perfect for books on mp3 or c.d. Ride the bus or train? Read while the driver does the work.

3. Stash books anywhere you are likely to be - in the car, on your bedside tables, by your couch, in the diaper bag (just me?) for easy retrieval. Don't find yourself with time to kill and no book at hand - the horror!

4. Join a reading challenge or create your own. There are challenges all over the web (I particularly like this Sense and Sensibility one, although I did not join) to encourage you to read more in 2011. Accountability and encouragement are always good motivators.

5. Read a specified number of pages a day. Or set a timer (15 minutes? 30 minutes?) and read for that amount of time before doing something else. Even the kids will survive 15 minutes without you, especially if they know you'll be ready to help them once the timer beeps. Kids will surprise you - they may get their own book and curl up beside you. (Yes, that has happened around here.)

6. Read a page or a chapter or however much you decide. Then complete some other task (switching laundry, loading dishwasher, whatever). Return to read another page or chapter. Yes, you've caught me. I do this all the time. The reading seems like a reward for getting a job done and the necessary things are not neglected all day while I read. That's a win-win for me.

7. Limit TV and movie watching. Really limit. There are two things I watch on television: Masterpiece Theatre and Fringe. (Strange combination, I know.) We watch movies (on DVD) maybe twice a week. We don't have cable, we don't watch the news, our television isn't on during the day. It's just not a problem in this house. However:

8. Limit internet surfing. This is the greatest threat to my reading. Because I can sit down to "check my email" and the next thing I know, it's lunch time. Set a timer. Or keep the computer off until certain tasks are accomplished. I'm preaching to myself here - set a limit and stick to it.

9. Give a book a fair chance, even if it's different from what you usually read. Maybe it takes a bit for the author to find his / her voice, for you to figure out the humor, or whatever. So: give it a fair shot but

10. Know when to call it. There are too many books available to devote excessive time to something that hasn't grabbed you. If by chance you're having trouble with something you have to read, try it on c.d. instead. Or break it up into manageable pieces. You may find out it wasn't so bad after all. (Hey - it worked for me when I was reading through Dickens.)

This post is linked to Top Ten Tuesday at Oh Amanda.
This post contains Amazon Associate links. Any action taken with these links could result in compensation for me. Opinions are my own and I encourage you to check your library or Paperback Swap first - these books are worth it!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Happy Birthday Philip!

He's already opened his gifts (which he ordered himself, I know, we are so good at birthdays around here), we've had a celebratory dinner with friends, and he's angling to go to the movies later this week, but I can't let the birthday of my absolute favorite person in the world go by without mentioning it.

P.S. I love you.

P.P.S. Do you ever wish you could still carry off the baby blue suit and little bow tie look? I didn't think so.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A God of Grace for Sunday

One of those Sundays.

Surely you know the kind - the kind that start the night before. Getting back home from an evening spent with friends at eleven p.m. is not a good way to start Sunday. Putting four over-tired little girls to bed, not to mention their completely exhausted parents, when it's almost tomorrow already.

Morning comes. So happens that the pastor is out of town. And the church is down one van driver. So we must spring into actions to plug some gaps. Only no one in this family is springing.

Daddy leaves first to get about making sure church happens the way it is supposed to happen.

At home, finally, finally, all the girls are dressed, hair is fixed to their satisfaction, coats are on, gloves are found. The baby (hungry because there has been no time to nurse) is, despite her vociferous objections, crammed and shoved into her snow suit and buckled into the car seat.

Have we remembered everything? Let's hope so, 'cause there's no time to go back.

Up the hill to fetch the Bear. Back down the hill to a local bakery. (Pastor Dad's class is accustomed to donuts every Sunday morning. Can't let them down.) Man and his granddaughter have arrived at bakery before us to buy two.dozen.donuts. And chat about each choice.

Finally, finally, it's my turn. I choose quickly, trying to remember which ones are favorites and which ones are usually snubbed. "You get one more," the girl behind the counter says. Am I grateful for this? No, I am not. I have to spend approximately three whole seconds to choose another. Is she slower than usual ringing this order up? No?

Pay cash, drop the change. A quarter rolls away under the counter. This is how much I am rushing now - I don't wait for her to pick it up and give it to me. I leave the quarter.

Back in the van. Drive toward church, trying not to speed, or at least, not too much. Stop to pick up sweet elderly lady. It's too cold for her to wait outside, so I get out and go knock on her door. I'm walking in place, trying to keep warm but also trying to contain my impatience. We are late. She is inside, calling the church for another ride. She is surprised to see me.

"I thought maybe you were snowed in," she says. And I wish, yes I do, that I had such an excuse.

We make it to church only about 5 minutes late. Sunday School already started. My kids rush to their classes. I put our coats in Prince Charming's office and sit down to nurse the now starving baby.

Prince Charming meets me in the hall on our way to Sunday School. The clerk is already waiting outside our Sunday School door because I have not filled out the attendance chart. Our teacher has started his lesson.

At one point in the lesson the teacher mentions that Christians should love church (I do), that they will be early in getting there are late staying there. Is it hot in here?

First bell - we are off and running again.

Announcements? And what is the choir singing? Right. "God of Grace."

God of Grace Words and Music by Keith Getty & Jonathan Rea Copyright © 2003 Thankyou Music
God of grace, amazing wonder,
Irresistible and free;
Oh, the miracle of mercy
Jesus reaches down to me.
God of grace, I stand in wonder,
As my God restores my soul.
His own blood has paid my ransom;
Awesome cost to make me whole.

God of grace, who loved and knew me
Long before the world began;
Sent my Saviour down from heaven;
Perfect God and perfect man.
God of grace, I trust in Jesus;
I'm accepted as His own.
Every day His grace sustains me,
As I lean on Him alone.

God of grace, I stand astounded,
Cleansed, forgiven and secure.
All my fears are now confounded
And my hope is ever sure.
God of grace, now crowned in glory,
Where one day I'll see Your face;
And forever I'll adore You
In Your everlasting grace.

I'm the pianist so I'm not singing, but I know this song well and I'm looking at the words as I play. Part way through the first verse it hits me: stand in wonder?

I haven't stood at all today.

Lean on Him alone? Not so far, not today.

Stand astounded? Yes, I'm there. I am astounded that I've forgotten why I love Sundays, why we do what we do. I hated to be late to class not because I was afraid I'd missed something important in the lesson, but because of how it looked.

The choir sang the right song today, whether it sounded good to the congregation and whether anyone else got anything out of it.

My God is a God of grace.

Even for one of those Sundays.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Psalm 23:2-3
Picture credit: Me! This is a picture of Loch Lomond in Scotland. Very peaceful, very still on the day we saw it.

Dear Lili: Four Months

Four months! You are officially not a newborn any more. You're still a cuddly, loving baby (I can't get enough of your slobbery, enthusiastic kisses!) but you are increasingly aware that there is life beyond Mama's lap.
We put you in your Bumbo seat while your sisters play. We put your play-mat right in the middle of things (Side note: we have not put batteries in this thing, so no flashing lights or "music", but you love it without those things). You have a favorite toy already - the little baby doll in these pictures. We say that you're kissing her, but it's just as likely you're trying to eat her.
You can roll over from tummy to back. We suspect you can go the other way, too. But you're not interested in being on your tummy when you can oh so easily flip to your back.
We're not sure how much you weigh now, since you haven't had your check-up but there's no doubt you're growing
You talk all.the.time. You squeal and laugh and sometimes it sounds like you're singing. Before we know it, you'll be standing up in church to sing with your older sisters.

Some things we call you other than your actual name or Lili: Baby Cakes, Sweet Cheeks, Lili-(middle name), and Little One.

The 28th of this month is the anniversary of when I found out you were coming. That was kind of a crazy day but now it's hard to imagine living life without our Little Lili.
Love,
Mama

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Look-worthy Links - 1/22/11 Edition

1. Lost that blogging mojo? Sarah's got some ideas on how to get it back. (language warning)

2. Board games abound here at Chez Charming. I wonder if Prince Charming would let me take some apart for this storage project?

3. Next birthday cake (Sweet Pea's is in February) I need to remember that you can make a perfectly cool cake with Playmobil people. 'Cause we have a few (or a thousand) handy.

4. A blog dedicated to chocolate? What a fabulous idea. How have I never seen this place before?! I'd like to go on record requesting this menu for my birthday. Or Mother's Day. Or, you know, pretty much whenever.

5. Ever find yourself wondering why it's wrong to end a sentence with a preposition? Or why "hopefully" is almost always misused? Grammar Girl is here to help with such sticky questions.
This video might help too:

Friday, January 21, 2011

Finer Things Friday - The Magic of Homemade Cookies

The good: we allow the girls to request desserts (and favorite meals). Doesn't always happen, but they are allowed to ask.

The bad: we require a certain amount of supper to be eaten in order to have dessert.

The consequence: the child who requested a specific type of cookie had not eaten her supper. So the rest of us were going to be eating up "her" cookies.

Yeah, it's a hard knock life around here.

The Finer Thing: before any of this child's grandparents feel the need to come rescue her from her Big Mean Parents, let me assure you that simply the threat of no dessert worked its magic yet again.

Homemade Oatmeal-Butterscotch Cookies for the win!

This post is linked to Finer Things Friday.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Words for a Snowy Day

Ah! There's nothing like staying home for real comfort. - Jane Austen
Miss Austen was right, of course. It's cold, it's snowy, and our house is snug and warm and we've got plenty of chocolate.
Stay, stay at home, my heart, and rest:
Homekeeping hearts are happiest...
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
photo credit: public-domain-photos.com

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

In Which I Hold Forth on Blogging

Giveaways - If you are giving something away on your blog, have your readers leave a comment. Have extra entries (and comments) for things like following your blog, following you on Twitter, befriending you on Facebook, etc. When I see a giveaway like this:
For one entry simply:
1. Follow this blog
2. Write a post about why you follow this blog
3. Go to this website
4. Come back here and tell me your favorite thing about aforesaid website
5. Donate blood
6. Type in pi to one hundred digits.
7. Come back here and leave a comment to tell me all these steps are complete.
8. And remember - if all these steps aren't complete, you'll be disqualified
9. Don't forget about pi to one hundred digits...
Sorry, I just dozed off there for a second. And I am for sure not entering your contest. Anyone willing to jump through more than two hoops is welcome to whatever it is you're giving away. (If you'd like to enter a giveaway that doesn't have hoops, my mom has one going on right now!)

Just.Give.It.Away.Already. If I have to make my part time job entering your contest, it isn't a gift.

Facebook - If you have a fan page for your blog, feel free to mention it. If you put out a friend request in order to increase your blog visibility and then, once you have thousands of blog followers and Facebook friends, drop your friends because you don't need them any more  ("See you on my fan page!"), then you are what is known as a jerk. Either do a fan page or friend request but not both. And certainly don't penalize the people who helped you get so many blog readers if you must change from befriending to fans.

I will not link to blogs that have acted this way. I still read them if I find them useful, but I will not link to them. For similar reasons, I do not link to many "big" blogs. Pioneer Woman doesn't need my help.

Issues - Remember that there are two sides to pretty much any story. Also remember that there is no list of fifteen things you can do to have a perfect life, perfect family and perfect health. Blogs about food and "natural" living are particularly egregious about this. I don't care if you are so into raw milk that you sit under the cow to drink it - just because I am not convinced about the virtue of such behavior doesn't mean I am poisoning my children.

I want to feed my family wisely. I want us to pursue good health. I take my kids to the Farmer's Market... every once in a while. We take supplements. We try to eat a balanced diet (whatever that is!). But I am not willing to make food, natural or otherwise, an idol in my life. Food isn't the answer to every health problem, and bloggers who pretend like it is are doing themselves and their readers a disservice. (One side note here: another pet peeve is quoting a book about diet or food and saying it is "extensively footnoted and researched" when in fact the footnotes are for other studies by the author. That's not the same thing.)

And don't even get me started on vaccinations - talk about a hot button, personal issue! I don't think I've seen a discussion break down any faster than that one always does.

I feel better now.

Be sure to check back here at Candid Diversions for my new facebook fan page, a list of ten ways to never gain another pound and an e-book giveaway consisting of five easy steps to enter!

These are the candid opinions of an opinionated blogger. Your mileage may vary (or YMMV, as we say in the biz). And that last paragraph was in no way meant to be taken seriously. But if you have a list of ten ways to never gain another pound but still eat what I want, feel free to let me know.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Look-worthy Links - 1/15/11 Edition

First, I have to say this: if you watched Downton Abbey based on my recommendation, I'm sorry if you saw anything that offended. Prince Charming and I did watch last Sunday and we enjoyed it, for the most part, but there was one scene we found offensive and unnecessary. So, mea culpa. I had no idea that would be in there.

Now, to this week's links:
1. My mom has a Valentine's related giveaway on her blog. There are no hoops to jump through and you can enter more than once.

2. I love egg salad, deviled eggs, etc. But I very much dislike peeling eggs. Maybe these tips will help?

3. These little notebooks are adorable. And the way my girls go through paper, maybe they'd be a good idea for us to make from all our leftover scraps. (Have you ever heard yourself say, "Do you think paper grows on trees?!" Wait...for...it...)

4. Have you heard about the plastic garbage patch in the ocean the size of Texas? Well, it isn't. Don't get me wrong, I am not a fan of littering or treating our world carelessly. But I do like honesty, both intellectual and otherwise. I don't see any way to fix problems if some folks are lying about the parameters or specifics of the problem.

5. No, I don't need glitter shoes. But oh, my. Pretty. Shiny. Want.

6. Remember how Prince Charming built our girls a bunk bed, lo those many years ago when Sweet Pea was the baby? Well, now that Lili is the baby and Sweet Pea is, and I quote, "almost grown up now," we might need to be thinking about the second set. (I said "might." Nobody panic.) These, constructed from IKEA materials, might work. Let me repeat: this is a highly theoretical discussion at this point.

7. Anyone besides me feel like a treat? How about Homemade Hot Chocolate and Homemade Oreos? The only question is which to make first! (Perhaps a question about the cumulative calorie count might occur to some but I try to ignore questions like that.)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

In Which An Introvert Seeks a Shortcut

Back in my Dickens challenge days (so long ago now...) I usually ordered the books from the library since I only actually owned three. Sometimes the copy the library would send me would be an annotated copy.

You know what an annotated book is, right?

Annotated – an adjective meaning supplied with or containing explanatory notes, textual comments, etc.

This is usually accomplished with footnotes, either at page ends or in a section at the back of the book. I've only read a few books like this but I have to say: I love it. Because if you're not up on, oh say, popular pub songs in London from the 1830's that information is right there for you. They give background, they make the story richer, they help you read the book with some of the same information the author had when he / she wrote it.

You know what would come in really handy? Annotated people.

Seriously - think about it.
"Has issues with food because..."
"Once bitten by a dog, consequently afraid of..."
"Afraid of the dark because..."
"Laughed at by her classmates when she was seven, so..."
"Struggling with infertility..."
"Loves sarcasm."
"Likes boats but not the ocean..."
"Hates being alone."
"Knows all the words to every Jim Croce song. Ever. We don't know why."

It would save so much time. It would save so much misunderstanding. ("Well, I know that she didn't just snap at me because she's upset with me, she's dealing with some complicated family issues right now.")

As an introvert who finds dealing with people singularly exhausting, I can tell you that Annotated People sounds like a great idea - unless we're talking about all my background, fears and dreams being accessible. Those files are need to know only.

Anyway, since it's not really an option, I guess we'll have to keep being patient with one another, asking questions, taking time, and understanding that not only can you not judge a book by its cover, you can't always judge it by the words on the page either.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What Works For Lili

Something we've learned about Baby Girl #4: she doesn't believe she's a baby. She has big sisters with which to keep up. She has things to do. Places to go.

She's just not sure how to go about it, seeing as she can't even reliably roll over yet, much less crawl or walk. And, while she's been an expert at holding her head up pretty much since she was born, sitting unassisted is a no-go at this point.

What's a girl to do? What all the stylish babies are doing these days (or so she hears):
Yes, it's a Bumbo seat. Dumb name, great product.

Now, when the older sisters have their approximately 17, 432 Polly Pockets or 27, 435 Barbie type toys out (but never at the same time - you do not want to see the throw down if Miss Pocket and Barbie try to inhabit the same space) she can be right in the middle of the action, sitting, as it were, on her regal throne and bestowing her (somewhat moist) smiles on the fun.

Which is, as far as we can tell, exactly where this baby wants to be.

We figure this will work for a little while. At least until she figures out how to grab the toys. Then all bets are off.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Top 10 Ways to Improve A Dismal Day

1. Pray. A lot. Together as a family, or alone. Pray specifically ("Help us to be cheerful, help us to improve our attitudes, thank you for...")

2. Make a treat together. Doesn't have to be complicated, but taking a "cookie making break" or mixing up some Jell-o and homemade whipped cream - instant mood changer.

3. Read a book together. Or each read silently for a specified amount of time. Then talk about what everyone just read. Bonus points if someone reads a few jokes aloud. (Our girls love Clubhouse, Jr. magazine for this)

4. Take a nap. Quiet time (nap time without sleeping) counts, too.

5. Work on something together: a needed household job (sorting laundry, anyone?) or something fun like building with Legos or a puzzle.

6. Put on cheerful music. Dancing is optional, but highly recommended by my girls. Singing along is also strongly encouraged.

7. Decide on something you (or the entire family) can do for someone else, whether today or another day. Call a grandparent (or in our case grandparent or great-grandparent) just to talk.

8. Get outside. To a playground or just for a walk around the block. If it's really snowy (like today), bundle up and get out there, even if it's only for 30 minutes.

9. Declare a family movie day (or night). Watch something together. Make popcorn. Make hot cocoa. Snuggle in on the couch with the comfiest blankets.

10. Look at scrapbooks or family pictures together, especially from when the kids were babies. It's hard, if not impossible, for a little girl to cling to her grumpy attitude when she's looking at a picture of how cute she was when she was a baby and trying chocolate for the first time.

More thoughts on "Re-Setting" in this post. (Can you tell it's been on my mind? That's what a new year and winter will do to a body.)

This post is linked to Top Ten Tuesday at Oh, Amanda.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Look-worthy Links - 1/8/11 Edition

I'm definitely hoping to watch this new mini-series, starting Sunday night. British, Edwardian period dress drama? Yes, please.

As if education in the United States wasn't already in trouble, now it's being infiltrated by the Chinese? Yet another reason to be glad God has called my family to homeschool. (Common Sense: money, whether from our government or another, is never, ever "no strings attatched.")

My wonderful friend Rachel (seriously. Everyone should have a Rachel in their lives) made me some terrific Spiced Chai Latte Mix back when Lili was born. I think this recipe is pretty close and I'll probably be trying it soon - just as soon as I have my last cup of what Rachel made. (Yes, I've been rationing it. It's good stuff!)

Speaking of good stuff, this Nutella fudge recipe sounds great. But then, anything with Nutella as an ingredient would have to be good, right?

I forgot to mention this back when I first read it, but I think this story is pretty cool. A news story about ancient Roman statues off the coast of Israel? Definitely strikes my imagination.

My sisters and I seem to be drawn to flannel shirts these days. Maybe this tutorial would help us prettify some thrift store finds. I think we'll get Lulu to try it first, she stands the best chance of actually getting it right. What can I say? My sewing machine is just as temperamental as its owner.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Lighthouses, Bridges, and Bows, Oh, My!

The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge: Restored Edition
This week Tigger and I (with Sweet Pea tagging along) did a super simple unit study - the only kind I'm capable of pulling off at this point! - based on The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Grey Bridge by Hildegarde Swift (with wonderful illustrations by Lynd Ward). This is one of our absolute favorite read aloud books.We've actually worn out one copy of the book and the one we have now is a hardback in great condition that I found at a thrift store. The idea of anyone giving this book away is cuh-razy to me, but hey - we'll take it!

We used some of the printable things available from Homeschool Share (resources for this book available here) I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but Homeschool Share is one of my favorite sites. (This is turning into a post about my favorite things - completely unintentionally!)

We read some other books about bridges and lighthouses. Our favorite was this one:
Bridges Are to Cross (Picture Puffins)
Bridges are to Cross by Philemon Sturges, which we found at our library. The illustrations are amazing.

Tigger also read Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie by Peter Roop and The Lighthouse Children by Syd Hoff.

We made a poem / coloring sheet (we used clip art of a bridge) with Christina Rossetti's poem,  Boats Sail on the Rivers:

Boats sail on the rivers,
And ships sail on the seas;
But clouds that sail across the sky
Are prettier far than these.
There are bridges on the rivers,
As pretty as you please;
But the bow that bridges heaven,
And overtops the trees,
And builds a road from earth to sky,
Is prettier far than these.

Tigger read this poem every day (the easiest way I know to memorize a new poem).

We tried building bridges out of duplos or legos and we talked about the bridges we drive over or see on a regular basis. Tigger's only experience with lighthouse is her granddad's extensive lighthouse collection but some day we plan to visit some "for real," as Tigger put it.

This post is linked up to Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers' Weekly Wrap-Up.

This post contains Amazon Associate links. Any action taken with these links could result in compensation for me. Opinions are my own and I encourage you to check your library or Paperback Swap first - these books are worth it!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

2010 Reading Year in Review

Fiction: 51
Non-fiction:81
Total: 132, 14 less than last year. Go ahead and scold me, I've already scolded myself. Although, come to think of it, I did give birth to another human being in good old 2010 (I'm nostalgic for it already!) so I might cut myself some slack. 

Anyway, that works out to 11 per month or around 2.5 books a week.
Most books read in: January, with 16.
Fewest books read in: November, with 6.
Most non-fiction read: tie between January and August, with 9 each.
Most fiction read: tie between January and September, with 7 each.

Favorite Fiction Series: the Ian Rutledge mysteries by Charles Todd, although they're of varying quality
Best Novel: La's Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith. Read in February
Most Hyped Novel: The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Also read in February.
Most Austen-esque: A Little Folly by Jude Morgan (Also wins "Book I'd Actually Pay Money to Own" and "Favorite Novel" awards). Read in June.
Worst Austen Tie-In: Darcy's Voyage by Kara Louise. Read in December.
Best Vintage British: any of the books by D.E. Stevenson, although I especially enjoyed Vittoria Cottage, read in June.

Number of Dickens completed: 10 (Read my thoughts about my Dickens challenge in this post)
Favorite Dickens: Our Mutual Friend, read in November.
Least Favorite Dickens: Martin Chuzzlewit, although I wouldn't say I didn't like it, it's just the later stuff is more memorable.
Best Book / Movie Combo: Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens.

Best Biography: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet Spy by Eric Metaxas, read in December. (Also wins "Most Moving" and probably "Most Thought Provoking")
Best Biography Runner-Up: The Rose of Martinique: A Life of Napoleon's Josephine by Andrew Stuart, read in March.
Most Influential Non-fiction: Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung. Every Christian should read this book. I read it in June.
Most Influential Non-fiction Runner-Up: 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam. Can't recommend this one highly enough. Read in November.
Best Practical Christian Living Book: The Peacemaker by Ken Sande. Also did most of a Ladies' Bible Study based on this book. Definitely recommended reading.

Best Book Read as Research: Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour by Lynne Olson.Read in April.
Best Research Book Runner-Up: The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert Edsel. Read in March.

Type of books I probably won't be reading in 2011: Pregnancy & newborn books, of which I read at least five in 2010.
Type of books I will always be reading (sigh): Organization or time management books. Go figure.

I'm working on a new fiction challenge for myself. And I can feel the writing muse coming upon me again, so that means even more research. The 2011 reading year (2 finished so far) has already begun!

This post contains Amazon Associate links. Any action taken with these links could result in compensation for me. Opinions are my own and I encourage you to check your library or Paperback Swap first - these books are worth it!